A window of opportunity

Hope for a two-state solution in Israel isn’t dead after all

One day after President Obama’s inauguration, he was confronted with a new reality in the Middle East: In national elections, Israelis returned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power but at the same time strengthened a new centrist party, There Is a Future.

What this means is that there is still hope for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it may not last for long. The dominant political forces in Israel have abandoned the two-state solution in favor of expansion into the West Bank, and at best the centrists’ success will slow the process without solving the problem.

And, as Israel expands, it will face the prospect of becoming an apartheid state, with minority Jews ruling over majority Arabs.

If President Obama believes that a two-state solution is a fundamental national-security interest—as it certainly is—he will have to act forcefully and soon, bringing all possible pressure to bear, financial and otherwise, to convince both parties to cooperate.

This means going to the region and meeting with its leaders and presenting them with a deal they can’t refuse. It means energizing those leaders’ constituencies to push for the two-state solution that polls show a majority wants. It has to happen, or the conflict will devolve into greater extremism on both sides—a disaster for the region and for the United States.